Grace, beauty, common sense, aesthetics, prevailing, incongruous, aggressive—all words used to describe the monumental home proposed for 8 Bay Avenue. Words, however, were no match for the cold hard numbers of the town’s zoning ordinance and Historic District Guidelines. Local citizen Erin Harvey appealed the Historic District Review Board’s ruling which will allow the 9000-square foot structure to be constructed at 8 Bay, and attempted to use the town’s zoning ordinance, as well as aesthetics and common sense as the foundation of his argument.
Town Planner Larry DiRe countered that, contrary to the data presented by Harvey, the home meets all the criteria of the town’s zoning ordinance as well as falling into line with the historic guidelines. DiRe told Town Council that as a government official, he could not be swayed by emotion, but is bound by the language of the town’s code.
Town Council agreed. After reviewing the appeal, they concluded that there was nothing in the town’s code that would allow them to stop the construction. “I think it is too big,” said Mayor George Proto. “But the home does not violate…it is in line with our ordinances.” Councilman Steve Bennett of Bay Creek added that he felt the home would add to the aesthetic beauty of the beachfront. While he would not come out and say he felt the home was inappropriate, Councilman Andy Buchholz noted that a careful review and re-writing of the zoning ordinance needed to be undertaken to prevent this type of situation.
Town Council unanimously agreed to reject Harvey’s appeal and green-light the construction of the home.
A handful of Bay Creek residents penned short letters in favor of the new home. Sean Ingram, who will be constructing the home, also spoke in favor of the home during public comments.
There was a ground swell of protests from homeowners in the historic district against the new construction, both spoken during public comments, as well as submitted to council in writing (most of the written comments were several hundred words). Former council member Bruce Evans, who served when the Historic Guidelines were first adopted, passionately pleaded with council to interpret the intent of guidelines, and to reject the home based on aesthetic and real notions of historic integrity. Evans used the “little bit” defense to make his argument. When the Department of Historic Resources first met with Cape Charles, it was adamant that to maintain historic integrity, the town needed to fight for every “little bit” of its history. If you allow home owners and developers to chip away, eventually you will be left with faux history, essentially nothing.
Opinion: The chipping away of historic Cape Charles has been going on for some time—the Hotel Cape Charles, the old High School, most new renovations and construction, have all served to bastardize the historical integrity of this town. And it has all been sanctioned and promoted by town council and the boards and commissions that serve them. That town council would allow such a home at 8 Bay Avenue should not come as a surprise. The precedent was set several years ago.